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Training Camp, Sharper and the Draft


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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Bengals lose out on Sharper

Linebacker takes offer from Seahawks instead

By Mark Curnutte

Enquirer staff writer

The Bengals on Tuesday lost a player they wanted, signed one and continued preparations to draft more.

Free-agent linebacker Jamie Sharper, who played for Bengals coach Marvin Lewis in Baltimore, signed a five-year, $17.5 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks.

The Bengals had made an offer but would not disclose details.

The Bengals did announce the signing of restricted free-agent running back Kenny Watson to a one-year contract.

Watson played in all 16 games in 2004-05, averaging 6.1 yards a carry and leading the team's running backs with 24 pass receptions for 162 yards. Watson also was fourth with 15 special teams tackles.

Most of the work at Paul Brown Stadium concentrated in two areas: the weight room, where 90 percent of players under contract are participating in the second week of the team's 14-week offseason strength and conditioning program; and in the front office, where Lewis said a series of meetings were under way to set the team's board in preparation for the NFL draft April 23-24.

The players the Bengals draft can look forward to participating in a rookie mini-camp the following week. Practices for the 25 or 26 eligible players will be April 30-May 1 at Paul Brown Stadium.

Lewis announced the dates for training camp at Georgetown (Ky.) College. Players will report July 28, and the first practices will be July 29. Camp will break Aug. 17, and the team will return to the stadium to begin one-a-day practices that more reflect a regular-season regimen.

The Bengals again begin with the 17th pick in the first round, the result of their 8-8 record. They are in position to get immediate help or build for the future.

"The things I'm excited about is there is a lot of depth in a lot of areas in this draft - some areas that hit us very good and fit us as we move forward with our football team," Lewis said.

Added Lewis: "Talk about offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers, (the) secondary, wide receiver - areas I've alluded to, areas we'll look to try to reinforce and rev up the competition."

Lewis confirmed a series of the visits the Bengals have had from top college draft prospects. Lewis said the list of 19 prospects includes Georgia strong safety Thomas Davis, Mississippi center Chris Spencer, Clemson linebacker Leroy Hill, Georgia inside linebacker Odell Thurman and Tulsa quarterback James Kilian.

Lewis has four or five players he said he covets in the draft.

"We've got a wish list," he said. "It's a good thing it's not one guy. We'll take any one of three or four players who will make us a better football team."

The draft will be Lewis' third as Bengals coach, and the team has progressed each season.

"I hope," he said when asked if the 2005 draft is one that would provide "finishing touches," as opposed to bulk. "But the first year, where we were drafting, guys we were drafting had the opportunity to be really productive guys in the NFL.

"Last year, we weren't drafting as high. We made some deals and got more guys, because we cut more veterans the year before. We've kind of evolved into (a team) that can add players who enhance us."

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